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By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

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New Handling Techniques Make Taking a Cat to the Vet Much Easier

In the past, I've been less nervous about air travel than I have been about my cats' veterinary appointments. And there's a reason for it: While I can and do manage my own levels of stress and annoyance when turning myself over to the air-travel system at the security checkpoint, controlling a cat's fear of the veterinary hospital has been for many years something I couldn't manage.
Until recently, that is.
In the years between writing "Cats For Dummies" and co-authoring "Your Cat: The Owner's Manual," a huge amount of work has been done to make veterinary practices more "feline-friendly," and a lot of information about ways to keep cats calmer before, during and after their visits has become available. With wellness checkups for my cats Ilario and Mariposa on the calendar, I reviewed my plan of action and prepared for V-Day.
Everything went perfectly. The cats traveled quietly in their carriers, were relaxed if not exactly happy at the veterinarian's, passed their wellness exams with flying colors and settled back into their routines at home without a hiccup. One even had blood drawn, which in previous visits would have meant at least two with puncture wounds -- the cat and one of the humans involved.
What did I do? I started by putting the carriers out two days early and setting them in the room where the cats like sunning themselves. That meant no running when the carriers appeared. My carriers are also of a style designed just for cats by behaviorists: They're roomy and sturdy, and they break down easily in the exam room -- the top can be removed, and the cat can remain comfortable and secure in the "bed" half that remains.
On the day of the visit, about an hour before we had to leave, I sprayed folded towels with Feliway -- a substance that mimics a natural calming pheromone -- and put them in the crates. I hadn't fed the cats so they'd be more interested in treats, and so the one who always throws up wouldn't (she didn't). I'd closed the door on them in their sunning room so they couldn't hide elsewhere in the house.
About a half-hour before we needed to leave, I put the cats in their carriers, put the carriers on the bed and put towels with more Feliway on top of them. I left those towels in place when I put the carriers in the car and secured them with the seat belts.
When I got to my veterinarian's, her team was ready. We were put immediately in a quiet room so my cats didn't have to sit around other animals, especially dogs. With the room secured, an expert technician allowed them to wander and relax, or to just sit in their crates if that made them more comfortable. Every interaction was gentle and patient, with lots of praise, treats and petting.
Ilario does not like strangers, and he does not like being handled unless he chooses to be petted. While he wasn't happy to be there, he never reacted violently out of fear. He even tolerated a nail-clipping and the spot application of flea-control, which is a hard job for me to handle with just my own two hands. It's ideally a two-person job, and Ilario handled it just fine. As for Mariposa, she never stopped purring, even though she was due for vaccines and -- since I'd recently adopted her -- needed a microchip.
It was the best trip to the vet's ever, thanks to my preparation and my veterinarian's work to make her practice a place where a cat can be happy. Cats should never be treated as if they are small dogs, and I'm so glad to see so many veterinary practices becoming feline-friendly.
You'll find guidelines for pet owners and veterinary practices at The CATalyst Council's website, Then talk to your veterinarian about cat-friendly care. You might be surprised at how much has changed for the better in recent years. - By Gina Spadafori

How best to adopt a cat and a kitten?
Q: To my sorrow, I recently had to say goodbye to a cat I adopted nearly 20 years ago, the last of two littermates rescued from a restaurant dumpster near my veterinarian's office. I am missing my warm fuzzies, and I would like to adopt two cats again, but this time a kitten and an adult cat, as I am aware that there are a lot of both needing homes. Is there a preferable sequence in this sort of adoption? In other words, what is likely to result in an easier adjustment: adopting a kitten first or an adult cat? How much time should I allow between adoptions, or is it OK to adopt at the same time? -- K.G, via e-mail
A: Since cats are generally slower to adapt to new surroundings than kittens are, the best way to go, in theory, is to adopt a cat first, then a kitten, or both at once. Both at once, in fact, may be easiest on both cats, since neither will be feeling as if there's an interloper on its turf, and your home will be new territory for each of them.
In practice, the order and timing depends on the pets themselves. In a well-managed, progressive shelter, you'll find help from staff and volunteers who can advise you on the personalities of potential pets, and the possibilities of pairings.
Your home setup will help with adjustments. Many cats need to be fed away from each other, and some won't share water bowls or feline drinking fountains. As for litter boxes, behaviorists typically recommend one box for each cat, plus one additional box. These guidelines will help the cats share space, and help prevent litter-box avoidance, which is by far the top behavior complaint of cat owners.
We're so glad you're adopting a kitten and a cat. Kitten season is revving up in many parts of the country now. That means lots and lots of cute baby cats will be taking attention from very sweet, very adoptable adult cats. The nation's shelters have long fought to keep adult cats in the spotlight, which is why June is always Adopt-a-Cat Month. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit
Game on! 'Kitten Bowl' to challenge 'Puppy Bowl'

  • If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That seems to be the plan of the Hallmark cable channel, which recently announced plans to offer programming it's calling the "Kitten Bowl" in direct competition with Animal Planet's phenomenally popular "Puppy Bowl." The shows will be fighting each other for viewers, as well as what could be called the "800-Pound-Gorilla Bowl," or as it's known throughout the world, the "Super Bowl." The expansion of the "watch baby animals play" shows does have one decidedly positive note: Like Animal Planet, Hallmark intends to feature pets up for adoption, all but guaranteeing that the kittens and puppies will be adopted after the final whistles blow. 

  • Pet-foods brands including California Natural, EVO, Healthwise, Innova and Karma are part of an expanded recall by Natura Pet Foods that includes all its dry foods and treats with expiration dates before and including March 24, 2013. The company, a unit of consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble, said the products may be contaminated with salmonella. The products should be discarded and the company contacted at 800-224-6123 or for a refund of the sales price. In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Natura products are sold throughout Asia and Australia. 

  • Companies that use corn in their products -- including pet-food manufacturers -- are on notice to expect the worst aflatoxin outbreak in decades to peak this summer. Aflatoxin is a mold that can cause cancer in animals and people, and has been the reason for pet-food recalls in the past. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a free alert system for pet product and veterinary recalls that sends notices to any email addresses entered on the sign-up page, -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

Date Published: 5/6/2013 8:29:00 AM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 05/06/2013


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Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of Dogs for Dummies, Cats for Dummies and Birds for Dummies. She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her at

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